Growing up, we moved around a lot. As an adult, nothing changed in this regard … my wife and I still moved around a lot. We’ve moved at least 15 times since we’ve been married. She keeps moving, and I keep finding her. Not really. The truth is that there is within me a sense of nomad – I am a wanderer by nature. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate the diverse and beautiful locations, or enjoy the churches where I served, or love the wonderful people along the journey. It’s just I never feel a real yearning to put down roots. (Don’t worry present church family, Evergreen. You’re stuck with me for a while.)
Inside me, this world never really seems to be my home. There is this yearning for heaven, to be in His presence, and to worship Jesus face-to-face. But I’m not there yet and life isn’t always easy in our journey. All this brings me to Psalm 120.
Psalm 120 is the first of 15 Psalms collected together as the Ascent Psalms. There are various traditions to their heritage. Were they sung by Levites on the 15 steps in the Temple, each step with their own psalm? Where they written in celebration of Nehemiah’s rebuilding of Jerusalem? Or, were they written to be sung on ones pilgrimage to worship in Jerusalem, recognizing the journey “up” to the holy city? (Jerusalem is on a hill so any one traveling there must ascend to it.) I lean more to the last view.
As we look at the first of the 15 psalms, verse 5 hits a chord … Woe to me, that I sojourn in Meshech, that I dwell among the tents of Kedar! It’s a great line, really, it is. This points out the psalmist, and also us as readers, are not in our own place. We are sojourning through Meshech (people to north of Israel); we are dwelling temporarily with Kedar (people to south of Israel). And these people don’t care for God, His people, or His ways. Basically, we are in exile, we are surrounded by people and a world culture in which we don’t fit. We are out of place and often in discomfort, if not distress. Woe is me. The ascent to worship begins with an acknowledgement that this place is less then perfect.
This is not a blog to complain. Not so ever. I want to see these spots as places God has put me for a reason – That He has sovereignly placed me among certain people for His purpose. And you too, No matter where you are and whomever you’re among, God can use you.
First … Maybe you’re there, at the very location at which you feel lost or stuck, for something specific. Maybe you’re not stuck, maybe you’re stationed. As Spurgeon says, these perilous places are advantageous posts for service. How can God use you right where you are?
Second … being in these types of places deepens our dependency on Christ and the Holy Spirit. We realize it’s not on our resources that gets us through life. It’s God. We might even be in these places because we tried to do life our way and God sends us to exile to break us of relying on our own insufficient self worth. Woe is me, but great is God.
Third, and lastly …. remember that living in the tents of Kedar will make heaven all the sweeter. I can only imagine what it will be like … for not the half as been told.
This psalm, this ancient song, is a powerful reminder this world is not my home, but while I’m here, I will serve Him … and sing along the way.
The way may be rough, but it cannot be long; so let’s smooth it with hope, and cheer it with song.Charles Spurgeon
Deliver Me, O Lord … A Song of Ascents.
In my distress I called to the Lord,
and he answered me.
Deliver me, O Lord,
from lying lips,
from a deceitful tongue.
What shall be given to you,
and what more shall be done to you,
you deceitful tongue?
A warrior’s sharp arrows,
with glowing coals of the broom tree!
Woe to me, that I sojourn in Meshech,
that I dwell among the tents of Kedar!
Too long have I had my dwelling
among those who hate peace.
I am for peace,
but when I speak, they are for war!